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Defending state champ Pewamo-Westphalia forfeits playoff run because of COVID-19

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

There will be no raising of the banner in 2020 for Pewamo-Westphalia.

Instead, the football program is raising the white flag — its season suddenly cut off Monday after a player who played in Saturday's playoff victory tested positive for COVID-19.

Pewamo-Westphalia, the defending Division 7 state champion which has won three of the last four state titles, already was down several players for Saturday's 18-17 victory over North Muskegon because of contact tracing.

Pewamo-Westphalia players celebrate their Division 7 championship over Jackson Lumen Christi in 2019.

"You know, it is a gut punch," said Jeremy Miller, Pewamo-Westphalia head coach. "We've been through a lot this season, with a lot of key players and stuff.

"It's just such a weird year, the ups and the downs. We felt really good about Saturday and really good about getting the other guys back.

"This was really hard."

More: Michigan high school football playoffs schedule: District finals

Pewamo-Westphalia (7-1), located northwest of Lansing, was to play at Ithaca (8-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in the district final. Ithaca now will advance to the regional final, to play either Cass City or Hemlock.

Portland (7-1) also has forfeited its district final against Grand Rapids Catholic Central (7-0), in Division 5.

There are four rounds of the playoffs left, with the state finals still without a home. Attendance for the finals will be significantly limited because of COVID-19.

Pewamo-Westphalia won state titles in 2016, 2017 and 2019, beating Jackson Lumen Christi, 14-0, last year.

The call came down Monday from Pewamo-Westphalia administrators, a day before Pewamo-Westphalia was scheduled to get a bunch of kids back who missed Saturday's game.

Miller convened his team Monday on Zoom to break the tough news, and, fortunately for Miller, most of the players had their cameras turned off.

"It was better," Miller said. "I'm glad I didn't see their faces, to be honest. I was staring at a bunch of black squares names.

"That's something I'll always be thankful for."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984